Pawn Drive Live at the Albuquerque Press Club (Self-released)
You can’t go home again but maybe you can, thought August March as he fiddled with an art object wrapped around a recording—two CDs actually—by a band called Pawn Drive. The object in its entirety was titled Live at the Albuquerque Press Club and it included a custom-made, limited edition screenprinted wrapper printed on heavy cardboard, as well as the two aforementioned discs, and some liner notes besides.
It wasn’t as if the Albuquerque Press Club hadn’t served as a potent marker in March’s life. His first date with his wife happened there. Among the Lincoln Log environs, he and Samantha had seen another Americana band, Young Edward, perform at the Press Club nigh on 20 years ago. They’d go back now and then for a special event or a political debate here and there, but otherwise preferred to keep the location as a silent symbolic sign of their journey forward together.
After briefly but succulently musing on that narrative, March’s mind moved to the subject at hand, quick as truckload of biscochitos late for the Christmas party but still as certain as a dessert tortoise.
“I went to college with some of these folks,” he thought, as he hit the play button. Robby Poore, who designed the packaging and art for this latest Pawn Drive project, was an original member of The Drags, one of the biggest punk rock outfits to ever come outta Dirt City. He’s still a great guitarist in a North Carolinian band, Phatlynx, but his superb craftsmanship and talent as a fine and graphic artist really makes this outing by Pawn Drive kick ass.
March had known Jason Fink, the mandolin player, since the former lived in Coronado Hall at UNM. March had always been amazed by Fink’s effervescent skill with stringed instruments, and on this set of recordings made in 2017, Fink made a bright business of such, adding a subtle melodious tension to the proceedings.
Greg Hanson, the ensemble’s dobro and resonator player, was another fellow who March had been listening to for 30 years. Here, Hanson’s playing was plangent and sparse but only as it sought communion with the surrounding musical atmosphere. And although March didn’t know the other two, guitarist David McChesney and bassist Tony Watkins, he recently grokked Cheney’s solo work and dug Watkins’ bowed upright stylings on this new record.
Darrell Sparks, the heart of this band, is someone March had known and worked with for decades. Spark’s focused creative vision as a composer and interpreter of American music is profound, and here, especially on his own compositions, “Testimonial of One” and “Gusty Winds May Exist,” he demonstates that he may be the most handsome of all.
Besides providing a much-needed point of reflection that March used to consider his long association with Burque’s music community, your local rock critic used the last couple of paragraphs of this column to mention what a damn fine accomplishment this record represents. The tunes are tuneful, the playing dedicatedly hot and luxuriously layered with touches of lyrical tragedy that make for an unforgettable but eminently repeatable musical experience.
Favorite tracks: “Testimonial of One,” “Helicopters” and “Monkey Meditation part 2.”